Psst...the revolution in Nicaragua ended almost three decades ago and this friendly (and relatively safe) Central American country is now a popular spot for bicycle travelers.
Gili Rosenberg tells us why...
All over Nicaragua we met people who embrace the future with open arms - despite the awful memories of the bloody civil war, and perhaps because of them, Nicaraguans are optimistic and positive. Riding through small villages, people often stood with open mouths, waving, and there were so many kind people along the way, such as Karina, who let us stay in an empty house on their farm. There was Ada, who fed us a delicious meal with a side of soft white cheese (cuajada) that she had just squeezed with her bare hands, and so on. Then there was the endless stream of kids who always offered us a free Spanish lesson and some giggles and laughs.
Nicaragua offers some lovely backroads, with light traffic and small villages. Try the backroads leading from Granada to Matagalpa via Boaco and Muy Muy, towns which have a very off-the-beaten feel. The old road from Matagalpa to Jinotega, which was lined with vegetable and flower stands, was a highlight for us, as was almost every road on Isla Ometepe.
The streets of Granada and Leon are a lovely combination of European architecture and Nica culture and people, with bustling markets and lively plazas. Aside from churches, check out a cemetery or two, for an alternative view. We spent two weeks in Granada on our five-month cycling trip, resting up, taking Spanish lessons, and visiting the market daily. We recommend the chocolate workshop at the ChocoMuseo.
We are fruit lovers, and in Nicaragua we ate the most delicious mangoes, of more varieties than we can now remember including: chino (our favorite, with an orange-like flavor), tomi (huge, one mango feeds three!) indio, rosa, papaya, manzana and mechudo. The markets were overflowing with mangoes, as were the huge trees along the lake in Granada, where locals climbed the trees with large sacks and filled them with free fruit. The best, though, was my aunt's mango tree - while we rested up in Granada for two weeks, we would scour the ground under the mango tree, collecting the perfectly tree-ripened fruit that had fallen during the night, which was followed by a daily mango feast.
There is something magical about Isla Ometepe. It is an absolutely unique place, an island consisting of two adjoining volcanoes, situated in the middle of the largest lake in Central America. Setting foot (or bicycle wheel) on the Island, we immediately sensed a change in atmosphere, a slowing down of the pace, especially compared to the bustling market in Rivas, where the ferry had left from. The roads are empty, and there are lots of opportunities for side trips, be it to look for petroglyphs or kayak amongst the mangroves. Give yourself some extra time to ride this beautiful island's quiet cobble-stoned roads.
Gili and Maya and now with their son Neil love cycling and cycle touring (and for Neil: anything that is bike related). They take any opportunity they can to go on their next cycling vacation. Their longest trip was crossing Central America (through all seven countries) over five months and with a lot of time to explore. After Neil was born they decided it wouldn’t stop them from doing what they love, so they’d just take him along for the ride. They cycled for three months in South Korea and Japan starting when he was 7 months old.
When Neil was 18 months old they cycled in France, and just before he turned two they headed to New Zealand for a month of cycle touring. When they are not bike touring, they mostly ride around their city Vancouver. You can follow their adventures on their blog: Life in MAGIcLand.